Lions Positional Breakdown: Safety


Positional Breakdown: Safety

Detroit Lions free safety Glover Quin (27) runs an interception in for a touchdown during the second quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

Projected Starters:

Free Safety – Glover Quin

Strong Safety – Rafael Bush

Players: Glover Quin, Rafael Bush, Tavon Wilson, Miles Killebrew, Don Carey, Isaiah Johnson

The Lions attempted to upgrade their safety position this off-season in both the draft and free agency. While James Ihedigbo has been a capable starter, the team felt it was time to go in a new direction at the strong safety position. Meanwhile, Glover Quin has solidified the free safety position over the past few seasons. The Lions have added some talented pieces at strong safety, but the starting spot will be fought for throughout training camp.

The most exciting addition has been 4th-round pick, Miles Killebrew, out of Southern Utah. Killebrew brings exactly what the Lions need in a hard-hitting, run-stopper to complement Quin, who’s a coverage specialist. Killebrew has the size and speed to draw comparisons to some of the better strong safeties in the league. His style of play is relentlessly physical, while he still needs to develop his coverage ability. Fortunately for Killebrew, the Lions’ current system should play to his strengths.

The Lions, under former head coach Jim Schwartz, had little to differentiate between the two starting safety positions. Under current defensive coordinator, Teryl Austin, the team has more traditional strong and free safety roles. The switch in philosophy helped Glover Quin become a Pro-Bowl safety. Quin, who once played corner while in Houston, has become one of the premier free safeties in football and his stats back it up. In 2014, after the switch to Austin’s system, Quin had a career-best 7 interceptions. Last year, after the team lost their ferocious pass-rush, Quin’s production fell off slightly. However, he still finished 2015 with a team-leading 4 interceptions.

Former New Orleans Saints free safety Rafael Bush (25) should help improve the Lions’ strong safety position. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

The other spot is far from settled and free agents Tavon Wilson and Rafael Bush should have an intense competition for the starting strong safety job. Killebrew may be Kam Chancellor one day, but for now, he’s just a rookie. Another thing going against Killebrew’s starting chances is the weaker level of competition he faced  in college, playing in the Big Sky conference. Bush should be considered the favorite coming into the season.

Although he’s only played in 11 games the past two seasons combined, Bush has been a solid player, when healthy. Obviously, it’s hard to count on a guy who’s missed so many games the past couple years. That is where Wilson comes in. He played as a special teams ace for the New England Patriots, but some believe he has a higher ceiling than that and could be starter material someday. Whatever his role is, he is a good depth player who could backup both spots if he doesn’t crack the starting lineup. It will be an interesting Preseason watching the battle play itself out.